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In chirpier news

♥Aug. 19th, 2017 // 10:19 am
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The day after we got back from Helsinki, I was mucking out Bugsy's stable when I heard a lot of chirping and noticed that there were swallows flying around.

Having raised their first clutch, they've built a second nest. This one is in the rafters above the tack room (and, thankfully, above an open area of floor rather than anything that will take harm from having bird poo all over it!), which they're accessing by flying into Bugsy's stable and through the roof space.

I'm glad they're doing so much better this year!
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Rain!

♥Jul. 11th, 2017 // 05:49 pm
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It's raining! And the forecast is for it to keep doing so all night! (Maybe now the fertiliser that Mr Farmer put on the field the other week will actually get washed into the ground: radical concept!)

The swallows have fledged their chicks. We suspect that the wrens have as well, but they vanished fairly quickly. The swallows, on the other hand, are still around and learning how to fly: we keep walking into stables to be met by confused birds trying to avoid flying into us.

I'm a wee bit worried about Esk, who seems to be having some difficulties in the egg department: she keeps laying wonky ones, and a couple of days ago she produced two in one afternoon, the second with a rather squidgy shell that Jo was very pleased to receive. Mind you, that was the same day when we found one that Agnes had laid actually in the pond, so, y'know....

This afternoon, I had my first private session with my new Pilates instructor. I'm rather tired now. I think it'll work out, though: I've booked another session!
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Huh

♥Jun. 16th, 2017 // 10:08 am
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While I was mucking out this morning, I saw the wren, mouth stuffed with insects, hop through the drain and into the empty stable. I was only a step or two away, so I poked my head around the door to see where he went next.

After perching on a stack of pallets for long enough to give me a suspicious look, he flew up and delivered his insects to the row of open mouths waiting in the swallows' nest.

I guess that the wrens decided that a disused swallow nest was a nice place to raise their brood, but now I'm wondering where the swallows are living this year!
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And swallows!

♥Jun. 12th, 2017 // 05:38 pm
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The swallows are very busy, swooping around the stableyard. When you poke your head around the door at the right time, you can see a row of little mouths lined up waiting in the nest. There are at least three, possibly one or two more. Fingers crossed that they don't have a problem and have to start a second clutch this year.

We've also see a wren going in and out of that stable (although usually by the drain at ground level rather than flying through the door). It might be that the one who nested in GB's stable last year has decided that he prefers the neighbours down there, and at least it makes it less likely that I'll find drowned fledglings in the water buckets this year!
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Things we have done

♥May. 17th, 2017 // 08:11 pm
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The swallows have come back: we've seen lots of activity in the last few days, including plenty of flying in and out of the stable, so we didn't scare them off. Phew!

The bird 'flu restrictions are, finally, over, which is also a big phew. The ducks are very happy to be back in the garden, and it's meant that we could put the boys in the stableyard, which was getting rather overgrown, so that the field could have a rest. It's currently raining steadily, and set to keep doing so for a few more hours (another phew!), so hopefully the grass will be able to get a bit of growing done tomorrow without being instantly munched back to nothing.

It's been quite hot for the last couple of days, so the Jug Of Minty Water has reappeared in the fridge:


It was much appreciated this afternoon when I came in from weeding the jungle front bed, which is always a sod and got away from me rather this winter, not helped by the lack of ducks disturbing the weeds. It's taken me a week, but at least it's not quite a Forth Bridge job.

I finished off the quilt from my workshop:



("How did you get it done so quickly?" someone asked me at a fabric sale last weekend. "I've had my mother-in-law staying..." I replied. Then she mocked me because I was carrying bolts of fabrics in two solid greys and three beige patterns, so I picked up a plain teal as well and bought some just to show her!)

Does anyone fancy having a go at some orchid identification? I'm stumped by this one, which is potentially more troubling than it would otherwise be as it's in the field we borrow in the summer and I don't want to let the boys near it if it's rare!


It's probably just an odd common spotted, but.... It's not monkey or military, or an insect one. The pink buds make it look like a burnt, which I don't think we get around here and the petals aren't right for anyway. The petal colours look a bit like a chalk fragrant, which is local, but the shape is wrong. That pink border, and the lobe shape, have me quite stumped. It *might* be a lady, but I can't see any 'arms'. They do have the pink buds, and the two-lobes on the petals, though. Hmm. I might go and have another look at it tomorrow....
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Swallows and hay bales

♥May. 13th, 2017 // 09:46 am
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Last summer, as we do when we haven't got three horses, we put some of the year's hay into the spare stable, which is also the one where the swallows have been known to nest. We moved some of it a few months ago, but there were still a few stacks in there.

I opened the top half of the stable door a few weeks ago, when the swallows arrived, but we've been seeing a lot of one pair over the last few days.

Coincidentally, we're just using the last of the hay in the barn, so this morning we moved it all over and left the stable to the swallows (at least until, hopefully, we get a new horse).

Fingers crossed that we didn't leave it too late: there was the start of a new nest on the roof beams next to the one from last year, and just as we finished one of the swallows arrived with a beak full of nesting material. He flew around the stableyard a few times and then went away again, but the pair reappeared just as we were coming inside so hopefully they just went away while we were there and will come back later to go back to work.

(Based on last year, they will start off the season vanishing to hunt when we're out there but then get less and less concerned about avoiding us as time goes on and the chicks get hungrier. Last year, one of them -- mouth stuffed full of food to be taken to the nest -- nearly flew into me!)
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Pied Wagtails

♥Nov. 28th, 2016 // 01:51 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1188185.html]

As well as the robins, we've also got plenty of pied wagtails around the place: every year, some lucky pair (possibly the same one each year) manages to lay claim to our stableyard, after which they have no trouble raising a brood or two of chicks by the simple process of hanging around our muck heap all day.

Now that it's getting colder, there aren't so many tasty bugs to be found in there and they've mostly moved out to the field, where there's still food to be found.

Having been raised in our stableyard, they're not quite as afraid of people as they might otherwise be, so you can get fairly close to them before they fly away. This morning, though, I got to within a couple of meters of a pair of them while they were having an energetic, on-the-wing scrap at the top of the field: if I'd not been wearing rubber gloves covered in horse poo, I'd have grabbed my phone and tried to get a video. It was really quite lovely to see!
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Robins

♥Nov. 27th, 2016 // 04:35 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1187995.html]

We have several robins around the house. There's one who has the stableyard, one who has the front garden and one who has the back garden. I'm not sure if Back Garden Robin's territory extends in the field (or, more usefully for a robin, the field hedge) or not.

I've always felt that, whether he has the field hedge or not, Back Garden Robin has the worse deal. Stableyard Robin has it pretty good, with all the insects he can eat from the muck heap and occasional forays into the duck's stable and the barn to pick up bits of dropped feed. The clear winner at this time of year, though, is Front Garden Robin: the ducks are off lay, which means they're not very interested in their high fat, high protein chicken feed, so the tin just sits there waiting for someone else to have a go. Even when the ducks go back on lay (and Esk has been showing signs of interest in food the last few days), there are all the bits dropped from the bird feeders (although we've cracked down on those this year, and decided that two feeders of sunflower seeds per day is the absolute maximum. Even if I relent and re-fill them at lunch time when it gets very cold, we're hoping to keep it down to no more than one 20kg sack a month. Plus the peanuts and fat balls and niger seeds, obviously).

Yesterday, I was weeding the flowerbed next to the drive while Mike trimmed the hedge. I looked around at one point and saw two robins sitting watching me in that checking-for-worms way that they do.

Even given that the drive is probably the boundary between Stableyard and Front Garden, I was surprised to see two so close together. They weren't posturing at each other, just checking what I was doing and keeping half an eye on Jo.

We did have baby robins in the garden this year, so I wonder if they're related and still young enough to put up with each other.
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Swallow news

♥Sep. 5th, 2016 // 10:52 am
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1175856.html]

We were very pleased when we realised that swallows were nesting in one of our spare stables*. We were rather worried when we went to get ready for the hay delivery** and found, as well as a small pile of poo under the nest, half a dozen dead chicks, but the parents were still around, still going in and out of the stable, so we figured they'd had a disaster and started another clutch.

* When I saw some flying around, going in the barn and the duck's house, I opened the door of the stable the previous owner said they sometimes use and the swallows made themselves at home in there.

** We keep some of it in that stable so it's not such a squeeze in the barn. I've put a sheet of plastic on top of the hay that's under their nest!


It was indeed another clutch, and we've been seeing the whole family flying around the yard recently, as well as occasional heads poking out of the nest. This morning, the no-longer-babies were lined up on a rafter waiting for the drizzle to stop so that they could get some flying practice in:


I dare say they'll be off south soon!

GB has had what looks like a sty on his eye for the last week or so. I've been keeping an eye on it but not being terribly worried, but yesterday it had got bigger and gone an icky shade of yellow. The vet's coming this afternoon, hopefully it won't be a problem.... (He has a fairly poor immune system these days, as a result of age and his pituitary condition, so I'm always a bit nervous about infections, and it being near his eye is even more worrying.)
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Poor little wren

♥Jun. 14th, 2016 // 11:52 am
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1161642.html]

Swimming in water buckets not optimal behaviour )

I didn't see any adults this morning, but they're pretty good at staying out of the way when we're in the stable yard (the swallows, on the other hand, are getting used to us and barely bother to swerve around us). T'internet tells me that wrens have two or three broods of five or six eggs, so I suspect that there are still others, hopefully choosing better places to practice their flying.
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Animal magic

♥Jun. 7th, 2016 // 07:09 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1158891.html]

Jodie: unsettled*
Swallows: impatient**
Ang: grumpy***
Bugs: long-suffering****
Cow: confused*****

* We had a lovely big thunder storm this afternoon. When Mike was half way through mowing the lawn and I was in the middle of potting on veg plants.

** The pair of them have been spotted flying in and out of the spare stable, beaks crammed full. While we're mucking out, however, they sit on the telephone wires, alternately preening and wishing we'd get on with it so that they can get back to feeding duty. We are in fact tremendously pleased to see them: Previous Owners always left that stable door open with good results, but we'd never seen any interest in previous years. Then I caught them checking out the inside of the barn and the duck's stable, neither of which we can leave open at night, so we opened the stable up instead.

*** Ok, not much different to usual there then. On Sunday evening, he came in from the field limping: probably just had a spat with Bugs. But then he came in limping last night, too. We trotted him up this morning and he looked ok, but Mike reported that it came back / got worse as he was ridden. This is Ominous, and will hopefully go away before the vet comes on Friday. Even if it has, he'll still be grumpy because he's due for a blood test.

**** He was very well behaved when I lunged him today, even though he was hopping along like a hoppy thing in the canter. I got Mike to video it, just in case he's sound when the vet comes, and later booked her in to see them both on Friday. 95% sure it's the same thing as he just had treated in the other leg: there were signs of it, and now that the other leg isn't sore any more he's suddenly noticed that it hurts.

***** As am I: how the hell did it get through a closed gate and into our garden? Or, alternatively, what kind of idiot drives along a road, goes 'oh dear, some previous person left the gate open and now a cow has wandered through' and then carefully shuts the gate as they go through, leaving the cow on the wrong side of it, without saying anything?
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More wildlife

♥Jun. 4th, 2016 // 10:40 am
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1157875.html]

A couple of times recently, I've seen a small bird flying out of GB's stable. I assumed it was probably a robin, and hoped that it might be building a nest in there. (GB had a robin that built a nest in his stable at the livery yard, once.)

Today, I went in to start mucking out and heard cheeping from the rafters, which was pleasing, and then a little later I saw a wren pause on the door, beak full of food, before dashing inside!

Mike's walking the Elham Valley Way today. (It has the advantage of passing through the woods by our house, so he can give up part way if 22 miles is starting to seem like too much.) I, on the other hand, am absolutely determined to plant out at least some of the greenery that's filling the conservatory....
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Wildlife update

♥Jun. 3rd, 2016 // 11:07 am
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1157463.html]

We've had a pair of mallards hanging around the place for the last week or so. I'm slightly concerned that she's decided our fish pond is the ideal place for her ducklings to grow up. I'm sure I'll be able to find someone to come and rescue them if it happens.

(Today, I learned that it's not *our* ducks that GB objects to seeing in the field, it's *any* ducks.)

Jo's been doing very well on bunnies lately, although I fear that the one she got today (at least) had mixa: it was huddled pathetically in the corner of the field and made no attempt to escape. When she'd lost interest and I went to have a look, it did indeed have red eyes. That's the second I've seen with mixa in the last few days.

(Top top for anyone visiting us, or indeed anywhere else in the countryside: if you're driving along and see a sad-looking bunny in the road making no attempt to get out of your way, particularly if it has red eyes, you really are are doing it a kindness if you run it over. It's a horrible disease.)
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Oh, Bugs, you were doing so well....

♥Nov. 29th, 2015 // 04:43 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1124123.html]

Yesterday, we took the boys out for a little hack. It's rather muddy, so we went a different way to the usual one, more on the roads. Bugs was a bit nervous once we got past the places he's been to before, and started a couple of times at dust motes, but he didn't work himself up and calmed right back down once he was back on familiar ground.

Today, we took them in the school. It was very windy, so I didn't have high hopes for his behaviour (indeed, it was really Mike's turn to ride him but we thought it best to swap), and he was rather nervous at first but he settled down eventually so I thought I'd risk a canter. Absolutely perfect: instant reaction to the aid, lovely transition, nice steady pace, all the way around once and then a creditable circle at one end, didn't break down to trot until I asked him to. Brilliant.

We had a little rest while Mike cantered GB (I'm still being a bit careful with keeping Bugs under control and out of the way when GB's having a run) and then tried again in the other direction. Pretty good transition, started to get a bit fast at one point but came back down when I asked, all the way around nicely, asked for the circle and woosh. Up in the air, charging across the school. Sigh. On the plus side, this convinces me further that it's happening when he has a case of the don't-wannas, not because he's in any discomfort or struggling to actually canter. He doesn't like doing circles because his balance isn't quite there yet, I know that. I also know that he has to learn, so once I'd got him back under control we did another five, rather than the one he would have done if he'd behaved himself.

I also finally got around to giving GB a hair cut, so he looks much better now. I had tried last week (it had got to the flopping over stage) but couldn't find the big clippers, and the little once just aren't up to that enormous mane. Eventually, I asked Mrs Next Door if I could borrow hers, kinda hoping she's say "Yup, I'll get them, here you go" rather than the "Sure, I'll get them for you later" that was what I actually expected and got. When that hadn't done any good after a couple of days, I told Mike that we'd have to have a better look in the barn for them. "Here they are," he said. "Those are the little ones!" "No, they're the big ones. I wonder where the little ones are...?"

That bloody blue tit's still around, and he's got a mate to join in as well, now. Fortunately, they seem to be splitting their time between the living room and the study, so at least it's not continuous!

Baby Next Door's quilt is very nearly finished, I just need to do the hand-sewn side of the binding. However, my hands are objecting to the fact that I used the clippers and then did an hour of neatening up the quilting around the animals, so I think that will have to wait for another day.
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Things for today

♥Nov. 27th, 2015 // 09:00 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1123678.html]

We've has a heron hanging around a bit, lately. Our fingers are crossed that the new pond cover is working, and it does seem that way: no evidence of fish being taken, although it's hard to tell when they're being sluggish in the cold.

(The blue tit was trying for the study windows today. Persistent bugger!)

My legs are considerably less sore today, thankfully. Not sure if it's helped or not but I did do a few gentle squats as part of my morning Pilate today. At least I managed to walk the pooch!

(My only consolation is that if I was that sore then I suspect that most of the rest of the class will have been unable to walk at all. I look forward to the conversation at the start of the next class.)

Earlier, Jodie produced a couple of exceptionally disgusting farts, which isn't like her: we did check that she didn't need to Go Outside, but she seemed inclined not to. Then, just as we were finishing dinner, Mrs Next Door phoned in a panic about her laptop having given her a scary error message as she was using IE: it was just a scam you-are-infected-call-this-number pop-up, but she couldn't get it to close so she brought it around for Mike to poke. As she was leaving, she mentioned that her lab has been incredibly farty all evening. Interesting. Apparently, TWWOTV's hideous rats pugs have been ill all week and had to have visits to the vet, so I suspect there may be something going around the local dog population.

(Mrs Next Door was looking for inspiration for a new hair cut, which initially struck me as an odd choice for nasty pop-ups, but actually makes sense when you think, statistically, of the level of IT security knowledge of the people likely to be looking at celebrity hair styles.)

Speaking of Mrs Next Door, I've finished the fiddly hand-sewing bit of Baby's quilt (thankfully: my hands approve), and pinned the quilt together: should be well on course to finish it in time for Christmas!
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Tap tap tap

♥Nov. 26th, 2015 // 06:30 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1123517.html]

For an hour or so this afternoon, we were treated to a blue tit standing on the patio, determined to figure out what the invisible wall of our patio doors was all about. He was a very persistent little chap, but did eventually give up and go back to the peanuts!
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Walking in the rain

♥Nov. 19th, 2015 // 03:08 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1122064.html]

Last Christmas, I got Mike a voucher for a half-day falconry thingie at Leeds Castle (him to do and me to watch), and today (having planned to do it a few weeks ago then cancelled as Mike's foot was sore) we finally got around to going along. It was just us, so we got a lot of attention from the falconer!

(The falconer went to a falconry display when she was ten and got hooked. By the time she was thirteen, she'd convinced her parents that this really was what she was going to do with her life, and got her first hawk, which is the one Mike was mostly using today. After spending six years volunteering at various falconry places, she finally got an actual paying job in the field!)

First we met all the birds, and learnt various interesting things (New World vultures are a type of stork; in the wild birds of prey take about eight months to moult, as they have to keep flying in order to eat, but if you put them in an aviary and give them loads of food then they get it finished in about four; they mostly feed their birds on day-old chicks because the yolk sacks are full of healthy goodness; hand-reared birds tend to be very vocal), then we went out with a Harris Hawk for a walk through the woods. He was in his teens, and knew exactly what his job was: fly from tree to tree keeping an eye on the humans, not getting too far away, and every couple of hundred yards swoop down to eat the bit of chicken that the falconer had put on Mike's glove. He was very impressive!



(Before we headed off he went and perched on the scales for a weight check: too low and he won't have enough energy to work that day, too high and he won't be interested enough in food to cooperate, particularly with a stranger.)

Every so often, he'd see (or think he'd seen) something to hunt, and he'd go off into the undergrowth: didn't get anything, but a few days ago he got an enormous rabbit and, last year, several pea-chicks. He's not allowed to fly near the peacocks any more.

It was rather a damp day (although I think less so there than at home), so the walk wasn't as long as it usually would be: he was getting soggy feathers and starting to struggle slightly, so we paused at his dinner-eating-place (the non-moulting birds are taken to the same spot each day for their dinner. It's always somewhere nice and open with a distinctive view (in this case of the castle), so that the bird can find it easily. If a bird ever gets lost, the first place the falconers check is the dinner place). He got two chicks today: usually he only gets one, but he'd been working and would need the extra energy to dry himself out, and wasn't working tomorrow so wouldn't be overweight for that. I feel as though I have a greater insight into the food habits of ballet dancers now!

Rather than send us off an hour early, the falconer put him back on his perch and got the buzzard out instead. After being weighed, the buzzard had a little homing beacon cable-tied to her leg, Just In Case she decided to go soaring off on her own, but actually it was still damp enough that she stayed close to the ground. We went to the area where they do their falconry displays, and Mike flew her a few times (bigger bits of chicken!) but she wasn't really very impressed with the weather!

Moving pictures! )

After that, we had a quick lunch in the coffee shop, a brief walk around the outside of the castle (we saw a pair of kingfishers flying over the moat underneath us, and one of them left a little trail of bubbles when it scooped something out of the water!), a slightly longer walk through the grounds to the car park, and then came home to Release The Hound. I would have quite liked to see the inside of the castle and the historic dog collar exhibition, but we don't like leaving her for a very long time, and we're unlikely to go back, as we've seen pretty much everything except those two bits and I can't imagine that they're £24-per-person good!

After which I went for another damp walk in the woods, this time with a different mighty hunter.


(Actually, the sitter took that last Saturday after another damp walk. Isn't she adorable?)

I drove up to the woods, because I was feeling knackered and it was wet, so I went in a bit I'd not visited for a week or so. The loggers have been very busy, but I really hope that they're going to put the bridleway back into some sort of order before they leave, or at least smooth out the foot-deep tire tracks that cut across it:


I had at least half an hour to sit down after that before we went to get the boys in, slightly early as the farrier was visiting. They are disgustingly muddy: we turned the hose on their legs to make it less horrible for him! Tomorrow, we're supposed to be having a riding lesson but the weather forecast isn't great. Tonight, they're wearing their thin cotton summer rugs. Tomorrow night, they'll be in their thickest winter ones....
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Birdies

♥Oct. 18th, 2015 // 01:42 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1115063.html]

In happier news, we put the bird feeders out for the winter a couple of days ago, and we've already got a few LBJs (mostly tits, I think, although I did see a chaffinch earlier) fluttering around them. Still very nervous, but they'll relax as time goes on. I hope that the family of long tailed tits is still around, they're very cute.

Today we've got some sunshine, for the first time in a while. It'd be a lovely day for taking out some leylandii, but I think we're going to leave it until we're a bit less sore!
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Greedy troughers

♥Oct. 10th, 2015 // 06:27 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1112841.html]

The boys have been taking advantage of all the lovely grass in our field and stuffing themselves silly, so that they're not really finishing their hay. That's not necessarily a problem (although we worry slightly about the amount of sugar, both in terms of GB's medial stuff and in terms of them (especially Bugs) having too much energy and being silly when they're ridden), but I don't like the idea of them stuffing themselves and then having to stand in the stable because of the colic risk.

This afternoon, then, after Mike had done some strimming and I planted some bare-root wallflowers that came in the post, we went to put their muzzles on so that they could have a couple of hours to digest while moving around. GB was a very good boy, but Bugs was deeply unimpressed with the whole plan, and showed Mike his heels a few times. We did eventually get it on him, though, and we could hear him snorting away in annoyance later, when Mrs Next Door brought Baby over to see the ducks (Baby loves the ducks. 'Qua- qua-' was fairly high on his list of early words).

Unfortunately, by the time we went to bring them in he'd managed to rub the velcro open and get it off. Sigh. I guess we'll try again tomorrow, maybe with a different one (we have a couple of different designs), although getting it on him will no doubt be fun.

At least it's only for a few days, hopefully: once they've taken the top off the grass it shouldn't be such an issue.

(We've seen a couple of goldfinches on the feeder: yay! Probably about time to be putting the main feeders out, too.)
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Tweet

♥Oct. 8th, 2015 // 06:53 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1112474.html]

Earlier, I opened the back door, about to go outside and do some spraypainting, and saw that the lawn was full of little wee birds, eating seeds off dandelions: gold finches!

They stayed for a bit and then all flew off, so I grabbed a bird feeder from the front garden, put some niger seeds in it and hung it in the back garden.

(We bought the seeds, hopefully, when we first moved in but we've never seen a trace of a goldfinch before and didn't bother to put any out last winter.)

Fingers crossed they'll be back and find it!

It's chilly out there. I wouldn't be surprised if we get a frost.
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Awww

♥Feb. 10th, 2015 // 04:26 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1069990.html]

It's very sweet when the little flock of long-tailed tits comes and colonises the feeder on the patio:



(When it's full, even more of them can fit on it at once!)

We're hatching a Cunning Plan re: Bugsy. Hopefully, they're going to bring him here over the weekend so that we can try him in a proper school. If he's still good, we'll keep him, and if not then they'll take him back home again. Hopefully we can get it all set up!
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You didn't actually like the lawn, right?

♥Nov. 5th, 2014 // 04:30 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1051411.html]

This morning, when I filled the bird feeders, I noticed a couple of little scrapes in the grass near to one of the trees. I've seen the girls hanging around there, and thought nothing of it.

This evening, when I went to fill the bird feeders*, however:


I can only assume that there are some tasty grubs living under the cherry tree.

* Last year, I see from the pet sitter notes, we said that the bird feeders might need filling every other day if it was very cold. I have no idea what's going on this year, but it's been every day so far other than today, which was twice.
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Almost Autumnal

♥Sep. 23rd, 2014 // 05:34 pm
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The swallows and the house martins are gathering into flocks, ready to head south. There was a big, mixed, group of them over a maize field this afternoon:


We're also starting to see impressive patches of fungus in the woods:


And (coff) I have new Autumn In New York nail varnish colours....

Mike has a peach tree, which arrived last week: it was a birthday present from his mother, and it's going on the front patio to replace the not-terribly-interesting climbing things that we inherited. Right now, it's been left to grow naturally, but in the spring we'll start training it against the wall.

We're just about to start another dressage series with our instructor, and this morning we had the first goes at our tests. We're swapping horses, so that should be interesting. I think that the Baby was knackered by the time I'd done with him. I was pondering, while walking the dog later, and now wonder if part of the trouble is that he's not liking his saddle: he has changed shape a lot since we bought it, and each time the saddler's checked him it's been "it should last another six or twelve months before you need to get him his grown-up saddle": if that time has now come, it would explain the bucks he throws when he goes up to canter for me (even GB does that when his saddle's pinching him), and possible also why Mike struggles with the canter: he starts to strike off then goes 'ow' and stops. Fortunately, the saddler's coming in a couple of weeks, so we'll see what she says. I hope he's not going to be a too-awkward (and therefore expensive) shape to fit.
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Peanuts

♥Jun. 27th, 2014 // 07:58 pm
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We've run out of peanuts, so the birds are just on sunflower seeds.

There's a really confused blue tit on the patio feeder, pulling seeds out and going 'what is this shit?'

Oh: just been chased away by Mrs Woodpecker. Who is behaving similarly.

Better get some more nuts!
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Woodpeckers. And holes.

♥May. 6th, 2014 // 12:15 pm
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We've had a lovely weekend, with F&E staying: pretty relaxed, mostly, and some nice walks. Last night, we thought 'what the hell' and invited the Next Doors over for dinner, too. Now, I think we'll just have a few quiet days!

I took GB out for a lovely hack, this morning: Mike wanted to take the Baby out on his own, so we got to go a lot faster than we usually do, and go down a few paths that the Baby can't manage (either because they're too steep or because they have trees down over them; there was one that I'd been eyeing up for a few weeks, thinking that I was fairly sure I could *just* squeeze under, and I was right, although I felt it on my back!). Nearly came off at one point, when I was *sure* that he was refusing a jump and so sat back ready for him to stop dead. Then the little monster took it from an almost standing start instead, and I flew up out of the saddle; not sure how I managed to land back square on him without even coming down heavily on his back, but I did!

He was a little disturbed about being on his own, particularly each time we went through a gate ("Oh no! Now I can't get home without human assistance!"), but he was mostly good until we actually got back to our valley, at which point it had started raining a bit and I gave up arguing and let him canter home: fortunately, TWWOTV was out!

I even saw a fox, up in the woods, although she turned tail and dashed into the undergrowth as soon as she saw us coming. That's the first that either of us has seen since we moved here.

We've been seeing a pair of greater spotted woodpeckers a lot, too. They've been taking turns coming to visit our bird feeders, and Mr Next Door told us where their nest is, in the field over the road:


Hopefully they'll be bringing the chicks over this way too, when they're a bit older.

GB was out of food, yesterday. Mike went and got the full bag of feed out from TWWOTV's feed bin, so that we could have a look and see if it was damp. It wasn't, but when he opened it there was a surprised-looking mouse inside, just like those toys that you get in boxes of cereal. Sadly for Jodie, it was apparently a shoddily-made, cheap toy: she'd barely played with it for five minutes when it broke and she lost interest. So, just like the ones you get in boxes of cereal, really! We've ordered a new feed bin, and Mr Next Door says he'll bring his angle grinder over next weekend and chop up the old one so that we can get it out of there. We also filled a whole wheelie bin with spoiled feed, which is an annoying waste.

I think I've got the front bed in the garden under control, now. It should just need poking with a hoe occasionally. Now I just have to do the same for all the other beds.... This garden has too much soil.
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Oops

♥Dec. 7th, 2013 // 03:51 pm
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Yesterday, Jodie got to go off the lead in the woods for the first time since she cut her leg: I did take the precaution of waiting until she was a bit tired, and keeping to the more open paths so that she wouldn't be tempted to go off into the undergrowth and risk snagging her bootie on anything, though.

She seemed to enjoy it:


Last night, the Next Doors came around for dinner. Mr Next Door mentioned at one point that he'd found a load of sharp bits of tin lying around on the ground in the woods, and we compared reference points until we realised that it was, in fact, in that bit of longer stuff where the above photo was taken. And where Jodie flushed a bunny on the day that she cut her leg. That would explain how she managed to get such a neat, deep cut, then. Oops.

Today, we should we'd take her to the beach, so that she could romp around without even her bootie without danger of getting her stitches caught on anything. Unfortunately, the beach had decided to take the day off:


Oops.

I've lately been nagging Mike, whenever he goes on a shopping trip, to find me some sort of platform bird feeder that I can hang in the tree, as I suspect that the bits of bacon rid I've been occasionally putting on the sun dial are actually being got by the foxes, not the birds. Having tried all the usual suspects, he eventually got one online, and it arrived yesterday.

This morning, as we were coming in from the stables, I looked to see where Jodie was, and this caught my eye:

In our defence, the tree had leaves last time we looked at it.... Oops.

(And, annoyingly, my phone camera is again taking pictures with white blur around the edges of the sky, so I fear that the replacement lens cover is going to same way as the previous one. Not sure what to do, I might have to actually get a proper Apple replacement or something.)
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Things I have done

♥Mar. 11th, 2012 // 08:59 am
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We went to see My Life Story last weekend, in the end. It was, as ever, a cracking gig, but after half an hour of hanging around and being moved from one sanitised part of the venue to another, we gave up on staying for the after-gig-gig and came home. Still, worth going. I just wish the Astoria was still going!

I finally got something to do at work. This made work better. I am now no longer on the verge of walking out, instead I'm just quietly waiting for it to go belly up.

My friend Toni brought her horses to the same yard as me. This is generally good, as it's nice having her there, but I fear it may get a little wearing having her mum there all the time. On the very much plus side, Mike likes riding one of them very much, and did so today: I suspect he'll be riding her a lot, which is good for him.

I, on the other hand, have been riding GB, as ever. I had a good but hard work lesson, I took him out for a nice ride in the woods (in which we slightly-illegally scooted out of the woods and into some land owned by a farmer; GB immediately perked up and started strolling along at a cracking pace. He is much happier out in the open than in the woods, bless him. I need to figure out other open places I can take him), and I got the side saddle out for a ride (hadn't been on it in weeks, and I have a lesson with it next week! Bum hurts, now, worryingly only on one side, so I must have been wonky), and today we had a good session in the arena, with -- as he obviously was dying to have a go - a couple of little jumps at the end.

On Thursday, I did pilates (still enjoying it; much better now I'm in the right class!), rode, and then we went to see Comedy Of Errors at the National: very good performance, with the slight niggle that the guy playing the Duke, who was obviously trying to be Gene Hunt, didn't manage to pull it off.

On Friday, I was walking out on the way to an early dinner with Erik when - horrors! - I saw a girl throwing stones into the dock. As I got closer, I saw that she was throwing them at the swans! As I got closer still I saw that she was throwing them at the just-starting-to-breed pair, who'd managed to pen a year-old cygnet behind one of the emergency escape ladders at the side of the dock, where it had wedged its wing between two of the rungs and thus made itself a very easy target for being beaten up. A couple of quick phone calls, and the swan rescue van was on its way, with me and the girl under instructions to try and keep the adults clear and try and stop the cygnet from pulling itself free. We managed the first but sadly not the second, and of course as soon as it was free again the adults decided it was back to being a threat and started after it again. My long scarf made quite a good swan repellent, as did a small group of schoolgirls who stopped to watch the drama. Eventually, after being stuck behind a broken-down car in the tunnel, the swan man drove up and came out of his van with a telescoping pole with a U-shaped hook on the end, which he got around the cygnet's neck (it was cowering under the bridge, shivering, by this point) and used to lift it straight out of the water by the head, much to my surprise. He got it sitting down, told us to hold its wings against its body, and dashed off to get a duffel bag, into which he strapped the rather bemused cygnet before carrying it off, with its head poking out of the top of the bag, to taking it to the sanctuary. I really should have taken pictures. (On the plus side: it does look like we might get cygnets of our own this year, for the first time in a while!)

So, I was rather late for dinner, but I did have the best excuse ever, followed by very tasty food (other than the pudding: we went for tapas, and I quite fancied a Creme Catalan for pudding, but it was utterly over blow-torched and was completely liquid when it arrived. I sent it back and was informed that the chef said it was supposed to be like that: er, no) .

On Saturday, we ate even more tasty food, and saw a traveller from afar, in Reading, and then today we went to the yard, decided we couldn't really be bothered to trek out to Hammersmith for the Douglas Adams thing, and went to Bluewater instead (shopping list: new riding bras, shoes for wedding, wool, new Soda Stream gas thing. Items bought: wool, Soda Stream thing, baking trays, trousers, on-sale thermal tops, an entire new set of cutlery. Oops. Does anyone want some cutlery? Knives, spoons and forks, twelve of each except there are only eight forks and the range is discontinued, which is why we needed a new set....). After Bluewater, we had a little drive around Kent looking at possible places to live (I've decided that I don't want to move GB again, so if we move while he's still around then it will have to be somewhere out that way. As Mike points out, this means that our choice of place to retire to is being fixed by my refusal to drive through the Rotherhithe Tunnel...); there are some nice little towns out there, though, and it's good for the M25, and there's topography, so....
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